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Donors, businesses respond to Project 13's fundraising, volunteer event

Date: 12/8/2010

Dec. 8, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- The first floor of the former home of the Holyoke Street School on Race Street was abuzz with activity last week. In one area, children were playing video games, while in another a battery of media equipment was being used. In another there were young people working on a sewing project.

All of the activity was part of Project 13, a dropout prevention program in Holyoke that targets 13 and 14 year-old children who have high risk factors for leaving school without graduating.

The program started in July 2009 and last week the students were preparing for a celebration at the Log Cabin Banquet House on Dec. 3 to note the members who have maintained good academic standing, to showcase the students' multi-media efforts and to raise funding and awareness.

Nicole LaChapelle, a volunteer for Project 13, said the event at the Log Cabin "exceeded expectations."

Over 200 people attended the event, which grossed about $12,000. More importantly, though, she said the event attracted new businesses and volunteers.

The self-funded non-profit has an emphasis on entrepreneurial efforts. Business people speak to the students and bring them into their stores, offices and facilities, she said.

Students operate the Project 13 store at Holyoke Mall not just to raise money, but to learn business practices, David Horgan, the Project 13 media instructor explained.

"We're trying to teach the kids about the world outside the street," Horgan said.

A film production professional, Horgan brings in his own equipment to teach video production and has taken the students to the set of the American Movie Classic series "Rubicon."

LaChapelle said the students' interest in film is so great; they want to produce enough films to have their own festival in the spring.

The students received some valuable performing advice from Peter Scolari, a veteran actor whose credits range from television -- "Bosom Buddies, "Newhart" -- to Broadway,

Scolari was the host at the event on Friday and LaChapelle said he spoke to the students on subjects ranging from stage fright to how to properly use a microphone to the difference between performing on stage and in front of a camera.

For more information on the program, go to

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